Fall Update from Bike Walk RVA
By: Brantley Tyndall, Bike Walk RVA Director of Outreach
As I am wont to exclaim, “It’s fall, y’all!” – it is time for our next quarterly update on Bike Walk RVA.
The air has cooled, the leaves are changing and dropping, and evening light leaves earlier and earlier. It can be a time of wonder and joy, with cozy weather and many reasons to celebrate. It can also be a time of increased danger for people out and about, especially people walking. Please make sure you and your friends and family are watching for people trying to make it along or across our public streets and roads. We all want to get home to eat some more Halloween candy.
Ashland to Petersburg Trail
Continuing on its work over the summer, Virginia Department of Transportation completed its draft alignment and feasibility study for the now 43-mile paved trail connecting the north and south ends of our region, with the working title of the Ashland to Petersburg Trail (ATP). They hosted two highly-attended public comment meetings, with one on each side of the James River and 200 total participants. Feedback was also solicited online throughout this time.
In early October, Bike Walk RVA completed its eighth Bike Walk RVA Academy to train and empower 18 new Champions for biking and walking, this time focused on the ATP. Many thanks to our hosts at VCU ASPiRE, and we can’t wait to work with our new core group alongside our 100-plus champions from the previous seven Academies.
At the end of October, in partnership with PlanRVA, Sports Backers hosted a Regional Trail Workshop with over 50 elected officials, city and county staff members, VDOT and US DOT staff, and peer advocates from seven localities across the Richmond and Crater districts to learn about and contribute to the vision of the forward movement of the ATP. Participants learned of the bountiful success of going “big, bold, and beautiful” on an inspirational model of urban paved trails from Brian Payne, President of Central Indiana Community Foundation, who led the concept and philanthropy for the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, and Kären Haley, Executive Director of Indianapolis Cultural Trail, Inc. who manages it now in its completed state. The value of the community connections, the economic develop potential, and the improved livability for people of all walks of life can’t be overstated!
And some of the best news to bubble up from this valuable time with our public servants is that some portions of the trail, in coordination with the feasibility study and alignment, are already being put out for transportation grant applications. We could see construction in some areas next year!
Virginia’s elections are Tuesday, November 5, and we have been working to ask local candidates about their biking and walking platforms. As a 501(c)3 nonprofit, we work to educate voters and candidates for office in our mission area about issues related to biking and walking safety. Supervisors in Chesterfield, Hanover, and Henrico are up for election in 2019, as well as every state senator and delegate. We share questionnaires with all candidates and publish the responses verbatim, and we never endorse candidates.
Vision Zero and Richmond Families for Safe Streets
I had the pleasure, albeit a heavy one, of attending Transportation Alternative’s Vision Zero Cities conference again this year, this time with the goal of connecting and learning from New York’s Families for Safe Streets in order to bring back what I needed to coalesce a group here. We had our first meeting of victims and survivors of traffic violence, and we will be hosting our first event for World Day of Remembrance on November 18.
Not one more person should die on our streets, and together we can build a strong voice to demand the necessary changes to make that vision a reality.
The last two weeks have been rough with people walking being killed in our streets in Chesterfield, Henrico, and Richmond. Richmond has some local ordinances in various stages of development that could be improvements to the various environments that lead to this tragic, unnecessary, and preventable loss of life. Councilman Michael Jones, of Richmond’s 9th District, is working to reduce the maximum speed limit within the city limits to 35mph (speed is the number one factor for whether a crash will be serious or fatal), and 1st District Councilman Andreas Addison has a safe streets omnibus package which includes several Vision Zero initiatives like requiring temporary crosswalks and bike lanes where impacted by construction, prohibiting parking in bike lanes, new enforcement of parking in intersections, funding red-light photo enforcement, creating a Vision Zero fund in the budget, among other proposals. Separately, Mayor Stoney has proposed an ordinance to create a civil fine for distracted driving like the ones in Hampton and Fairfax while we wait for the state to adopt it across the Commonwealth.
Meanwhile the counties of Henrico and Chesterfield currently have no Vision Zero plan nor commitment while still carrying a significant number of traffic fatalities. It is time for a regional approach, as we don’t all drive (or walk and bike) solely in one locality.
Richmond’s master plan process is nearing the end of the two-year public input process. If you want to ensure things like the Ashland to Petersburg Trail, the Missing Link Trail, and traffic calming measures to save people’s lives are included in the core guiding document for the city, take the Richmond 300 online survey by November 3.
Virginia General Assembly
The Virginia General Assembly, which may have a different makeup after next week’s election, starts officially in January. Sports Backers and Bike Walk RVA will be at the State Capitol carrying and supporting some issues related to biking and walking safety, and we’ll let you know some times and places when you can help! Hands-Free Driving is a big focus again this year, and we are happy to be following the lead of Drive Smart VA for what could truly be our year to achieve success. There are a number of policy objectives supported by Richmond’s Safe and Healthy Streets Commission through the Vision Zero Action Plan and Richmond City Council’s legislative priorities that we will lead or support in coordination with their team at the Capitol. Our state legislative process is a bit frenetic, and nothing is guaranteed, but you don’t get the big safety improvements if you don’t ask for them. And it starts with educating delegates of the real safety needs, transportation potential, economic impact, and livability that is on the line.
Thanks for everything you do to make advocacy for safe biking and walking effective in the Richmond region. For your volunteerism, your donations of time and financial support, your enthusiasm to walk and ride, your eyes on the ground for things that need to be fixed or things that are going well, your stewardship of our community, and for your hope for a better future. We are here to help as best as we can, and Louise and I are always happy to hear from you.
Director of Outreach, Bike Walk RVA